A stellar new entry into the flat pedal shoe charts from Fox Racing.
Fox might be better known for its riding apparel and helmets, but it’s no stranger to footwear. Not only has the brand been making motocross boots for ages, it also dipped its toes in the mountain bike flat pedal market back in the noughties.
So it has experience, and knowledge, but does that mean it will succeed with its latest range where so many have failed? The short answer is yes, because this new Union Flat shoe is a kick-ass product that goes toe-to-toe with the best options from Five Ten and Specialized. In short, it’s one of the best mountain bike flat pedal shoes on the market.
What’s obvious right away is the lack of weight. For instance they’re almost 100g a pair lighter than the Specialized 2FO DH flat shoe we tested in the last issue. And that helps when you’re pedalling all day, or it’s wet and your shoes are covered in mud.
And it’s on winter rides that Fox’s one-piece upper fields another advantage over many brands, as there are fewer crevices for mud to get lodged in, and the whole thermoplastic polyurethane skin just wipes clean with a single swish. For warmer rides there are perforations above the toe area and on the side panels, but we haven’t had the right temperatures yet to add our stamp of approval to the ventilation efficiency.
Across the front there’s a decent amount of reinforcement to save your toes from rock strikes, and the heel is also reinforced to help prevent collapse – the literal Achilles heel of the Specialized 2FO shoe. With an EVA mid-sole to give some shock absorption, and a moulded EVA sock liner to help comfort and stability, the Fox Union boasts a slender fit that cossets the foot. There’s less wiggle room at the toes than Specialized’s 2FO DH and Five Ten’s Freerider Pro, but it’s not cramped. The upper flexes more on the sole than either of the above rivals, and there’s a smidge less support, but nothing to complain about when riding. Fox also gets plaudits for offering the Union in half sizes for the most popular options.
At the business end, Fox uses its own Ultrac rubber in a softer compound than its clip-in models. It has sufficient pliancy and slow rebound to generate excellent grip on any decent flat pedals. This security is further enhanced by the small hexagonal lugs (smaller than Specialized’s) that create more channels and voids for the pins to engage with. It’s too early to tell whether the smaller blocks are less durable, but they certainly generate lots of grip.
Where the Union trips up slightly are the laces, which are pretty basic and too short to securely tuck under the overly baggy lace keeper. But seeing as that’s our biggest criticism, we can give Fox a round of applause for entering a highly competitive market with an excellent product – something few brands have accomplished. The fact that most of us at MBR are still choosing to wear our Union Flat shoes speaks volumes for their performance.